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What makes a sharpshooter? Kicking masters have their say

Goalkicking is one of the few actions in rugby league which falls completely on one person, and once the ball is on the kicking tee there isn't a thing their teammates or coach can do to help influence the outcome. 

From the physical ability to strike a ball consistently with the right balance of power and accuracy, to the mental side when it comes to handling pressure and silencing the noise, there's plenty that goes into each kick. 

In this special feature, spoke to some of the best kickers from the modern era to learn what qualities make a sharpshooter. 

What makes a sharpshooter?

Hazem El Masri

“Mentally you have got to be focussed and be able to stay on top of things. Your work ethic needs to back that up, you reinforce all that mental work with your hard work. After that you get behind that ball and think ‘you know what? I have no fear here’. Composure is extremely important, you need to remove all doubt from your end and be able to zone out from the noise and pressure. You need to be able to learn from bad kicks, otherwise you will make the same mistakes time and time again. Good kickers want to be like Michael Jordan and take that last shot in the last second, you want them, you crave them, you think ‘give me that opportunity, let me ice it’ and the feeling when you nail one is just beautiful, it’s unbelievable.” 

Corey Parker

“When it comes down to it, it’s about your style and how you kick a ball. The most important part is understanding what that style is for you and then going through, repetition after repetition, so that come game day you have done the work, and that more often than not, you’ll get the job done. It’s understanding the style you have and executing that style every kick, whether it’s in front or out on the sideline. You need to have a style that works for you, you’re not a Hazem El Masri, you’re not a Daryl Halligan or Johnathan Thurston, you’re you. For me it was really important that my entry and exit from my kick were spot on and the same every time.”

Parker had a long career as the Broncos' kicker. ©NRL Photos
Parker had a long career as the Broncos' kicker. ©NRL Photos

Daryl Halligan

“I think most good goalkickers need a base for goalkicking to start with, and that is developed when you are younger by booting footballs around the park and developing a strike for the ball. The mental side of it comes second and when you fine-tune your training. If you have a good week and get your numbers done and do all the physical preparation you want then you are getting that mental stimulation, because you are seeing balls going over. You aren’t competing against others, you are only really ever competing against yourself as a goalkicker to see how good you can become." 

Michael Witt

“Two things that spring to mind are work ethic and consistency. I think turning up on game day knowing that you’ve been practicing through the week prior is a big thing, because it gives you that mental confidence and clarity. I always felt if I had missed a practice session during the week that I wasn’t as confident on the weekend, so I always made time to get in kicking practice and then come game day there was no reason I should miss. By consistency I mean in terms of your technique and finding what works for you and making sure that you replicate that identically every time. All the good kickers, you will see they are very systematic in their approach, and they do the same kicks every single time, whether it’s in front of the posts or from the sideline.”

Witt celebrates kicking a game-winner in 2004. ©NRL Photos
Witt celebrates kicking a game-winner in 2004. ©NRL Photos

Rod Wishart

“Practice. We felt like we practiced quite a bit when I played, but we were only scratching the surface to be honest. If I was to look back on my goalkicking career I’d probably have put a lot more time into practice. Without a doubt I could have been better had I focussed more on it, I probably could have got my success rate up another 10 percent. I think you have got to have a bit of a knack for kicking and the hand and eye coordination for it in the first place too, and a big one is you’ve got to be able to block out outside influences and noise.”

And which kicks will these maestros remember forever?

"At a time when I needed that kind of kick, I was about 35-40 kicks into my career, it was the Newcastle kick. The whole game and the way it unfolded, we were 19-0 down and it was for our 16th win in a row. If I nail it we win, I miss we lose, and it was at their home ground. This year marks 20 years since that kick and I still get people all the time wanting to talk to me about that kick." — Hazem El Masri.

El Masri sideline winner

"I have one that stands out that I didn’t kick, in the ‘06 Grand Final I had a shot from the sideline to put us up by eight with seven minutes to go and I just shaved the upright. But in the 2015 Grand Final I had one from 42 out early in the game that I did kick, and that stands out." — Corey Parker. 

Corey Parker penalty goal

“There was the kick in 1998 against Parramatta where we levelled it up after being down 18-2, and it’s probably a kick I remember because I have seen it more on replays. At the time it was a big kick though which meant a lot.” — Daryl Halligan.

Halligan equaliser against Eels

“My first ever kick I had to win a game with Parramatta, it was all even and I kicked it from the sideline. That was a big one because earlier in the year I had missed a couple of kicks which cost us games. I remember it was against the Cowboys and we won at the death.” — Michael Witt.

Michael Witt's match winning conversion

"It was my first year in Origin, playing against Wally Lewis down in Melbourne, and we won the game. It was a pressure kick, but not a hard one, 25-30 metres out and left of centre, but in most cases I should have kicked it easily. I had Wally Lewis just giving it to me, and the ref as well, and he was intent on making me miss the kick. I hit it as sweet as you could ever hit the ball.” — Rod Wishart.

Wishart penalty goal

Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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